Skip to main content

MOM's MENCA brings divine wealth from Mars

MENCA (Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser) is a quadrupole mass spectrometer on-board India's Mars Orbiter Mission, MOM. In Indian mythology, "Menaka" considered to be the prettiest dancers (nymph)  in "Indralok" the palace of god's god, "The Indra". Hence the first published results of MENCA from Mars is like a divine wealth, I must say. The results are published 2-days ago in Geophysical Research Letters, GRL. Barring few conference abstracts  and a recent summary of MOM sub-systems in an Indian journal, this is the very FIRST science result that the Indian MOM has churned out on the international forum; hoping for many more to come.

A series of posts here have been appearing soon after the MOM project was approved by Indian Central government. In one of my posts here, I had given a highest rank (8 out of 10) to MENCA among the FIVE instruments flown on MOM. Today my prediction has come TRUE; I feel I am on seventh cloud. I could say this not only for the prediction, but also also due to my personal experience of our attempts to publish the peak#18 (Water) data from Moon in December 2008, measured by a similar kind of instrument in the Chandrayaan-I. It was (then) rejected by calling it as "contamination" (Science journal). Later in November-2009 the M3-instrument's remote sensing data of Water from Chandrayaan-I was published by Science.

Credit : SPL, VSSC, ISRO
MENCA is based on the similar platform as that of CHACE (CHandra's Altitudinal Composition Explorer) built at Space Physics Laboratory (almost by the same group) of ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, in southern part of India. Thanks to the rule books of ISRO, a heritage class of instruments is always struck to the similar processes of qualifying for the flight; it is only the mission demands which could bring in any minute alteration. Basically, its a neutral gas mass spectrometer covering 1-300 amu range with a capability of separating single mass unit. The Mars Orbiter Mission was inserted into Martian atmosphere in 24th September 2014; with an orbit parameters of 400 X 71,000 km.

After the completion of ONE year of primary mission (Sept. 2015), the present observations were made as MOM is made to dip down to 260-km from its normal perigee point of 400-km. While dipping down, MENCA had better chances of collecting neutral sopecies data.  MENCA has successfully measured the altitudinal profiles of CO2, (N2+CO) and O (details given in the GRL paper). This is exactly what I had recommended in my Nov. 2013 post that to be able to monitor meaningful data with MENCA, the perigee of MOM was needed to be lowered so as to skim through the neutrals.

It gives me an immense satisfaction and PRIDE that MENCA has come up with flying colors and definitely stands to get more than 8-points out of 10, as I had predicted. To repeat from my earlier post, among the five payloads on-board MOM, both 1. MCC, 2.TIRS are imaging instruments. Big science is expected from 3. Methane Sensor for Mars, MSM. The 4. Lyman Alpha Photometer, LAP too carries a great scientific value for its potential in estimating Martian atmospheric loss.  But, the day belongs to 5. MENCA. The hard lessons learned in developing CHACE during Chandrayaan-I were all worth. I like to end by saying " MENCA's triumph on Mars means ...........  Lunar CHACE was correct"

A similar version of this post appeared on Planetary Science site ....

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM): Indian Mission for Mars

Introduction:
Come November 3rd week this year, a billion aspirations filled PSLV-XL would be roaring into the skies of Bay of Bengal from a sleepy town of Sriharikota in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It was also mentioned in some occasions (unofficially); as the target is Mangal the planet mars and hence the space craft, yaan in Hindi named Mangalyaan. Nobody had ever thought that when the then Prime Minister Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee (with a think tank comprising of one of the most popular presidents, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam) declared that India will aspire to go to the Moon in his inspirational speech from the Red Fort in Delhi on 15th August (2003), it will be a giant leap for the Indian space community and for that matter for every Indian.

What a success it was for Chandrayaan, the maiden Indian attempt to the most lovable heavenly body. India had lined up its space probe (2008) along with SELENE (Japan, 2007), Change (China, 2007) and LRO (USA, 2009). When reaching the moon …

MOM'S MARCH to MARS

Billion hearts were beating harder than the thrust of PSLV-XL which lifted MOM (India's Mars Orbiter Mission) into a  text book like (as ISRO officials call) 247 X 23,500 km orbit. Oh... by the way, the triple M treat continues (as a tradition of this post)... The pulse of the nation can be gauged by 25,000 likes just during the launch (~ 44 minutes), now 187, 000 and the count is ON for the official MOM's FB page ; also the ISRO site getting repeatedly hanged during the launch. The most heartening part of the successful launch in my view is: a bunch of primary school kids appearing in the TV- panel discussion  (mainly girls... another vow.. for the growth of India) were mesmerizing the local people here in this state by explaining each small step taken by MOM and its developers. To put it in president Kalam's words the young minds got ignited; it is indeed a Giant step for the entire nation. The fever of Mars odyssey has gripped the nation; every local newspaper carried …

MOM Results from Mars

We all have been eagerly waiting for MOM to bring the scientific wealth from Mars. Except for the few pretty COLOUR images from MCC (Mars Color Camera), the common man in India has almost forgotten MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission). The highly exciting rendezvous with comet Sliding Spring on Mars did not yield any results to the public yet. On the part of NASA, their baby MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvoultioN) churned out a set of data saying that the incidence indeed pumped an appreciable amount of elements (e.g. Sodium) into the Martian atmosphere. Yesterday evening, my friend Mr. Srinivas Laxman, broke the news that finally a facebook page of ISRO has flashed a color image obtained by MSM (Methane Sensor for Mars) payload. I stopped taking my dinner and rushed to the ISRO site and was excited to see that MOM has indeed climbed the first step in bringing the path breaking science at the door steps of ISRO scientists? Why so... Let me explain...

Please refer to my earlier post on M…